Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Food Festival Fanaticism

We went up to New York for the second time this October. This time, rather than stalk hunks in Broadway shows, we went to stalk celebrity chefs. The 2nd Annual New York Food and Wine was taking place in and around the Meatpacking District. The events themselves were kinda pricey, particularly if they involved actual food or wine. Instead we just signed up for talks and demos by our favorite TV chefs.

P1040754We like Anthony Bourdain of Kitchen Confidential and No Reservations so much we saw him twice. The first talk was with David Chang, the hyper-popular and rather profane chef of the suspiciously named Momofuku restaurants. The talk was called "I Call Bullshit" and that was probably the most family friendly sentence in the entire hour. Among the things they called bullshit on were cupcakes, pork bellies with foam, Krispy Kreme cheeseburgers, and Guy Fieri.

IMG_8669aThe next night on the other end of town Bourdain was interviewed by Frank Bruni, former restaurant critic of the New York Times, where he laid into some of the same topics. In particular he singled out Alice Waters as an overly militant food zealot. He made a particular point that he didn't disagree with her, he just hated her tone and patronizing manner, calling her Pol Pot in a muumuu. He accused her of burning six cords of wood to cook Leslie Stahl one egg. He was pretty close, as this video proves:

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P1040764Less potty-mouthed but just as entertaining was Alton Brown the food scientist. Rather than give a demonstration, he presented the ten things he was pretty certain he knew about food. Item 2 was that chicken do NOT have fingers.

He gave a lot of practical reasoned advice. For example he said that 'organic' is a meaningless marketing term that has been sapped of any meaning it might have ever had. However, 'local' was a word he could understand. Get a map and draw a circle and you can understand what qualifies as locally grown. He said that if you wanted strawberries out of season, buy a bunch in season and freeze them. That advice gave me bad high school flashbacks of being pressed into the you-pick strawberry fields every March to fill the freezer with the tail end of the Florida strawberry crop.

There were a lot of other chefs and food personalities and the easiest way to catch them was at their book signings. For example, the Giada De Laurentiis signing was entirely full, so we snagged Tyler Florence's book since he was signing right next to her and had a much shorter line. Twofer.

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Ironically, we were so busy running around to events that we had a hard time slicing out time to actually eat. We just happened to stumble on some great places in the Meatpacking District including Asian seafood place cum nightclub Sea, replica French brasserie Pastis, and BLT Burger, master chef Laurent Tourondel's foray into cheap eats.

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And speaking of meatpacking (and I would make some sort of Chelsea joke here but I'm bigger than that), right next to our hotel was one of the last remaining real meatpacking plants left in the increasingly inaccurately named neighborhood. But this was a rather upscale butcher. They receive already slaughter meat and then dry age and trim it for the high end New York steak places like craftsteak up the street. I was tempted to smuggle one out in the butcher coat they made us wear.

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All-in-all we had a blast and would do it again in a heartbeat. You can check out more pictures in the Flickr set which includes the model shoot we stumbled on in the middle of Ninth Avenue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But that's the beauty part of New York; it's so easy to stumble on some really neat places to eat. I'm especially fond of the places in Little Italy that have people in the street cajoling you to come inside. No matter which one I allow to talk me into it, I'm not disappointed.

--Claude (wondering why I keep getting turned into garbage characters lately)